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Thomas Dowdeswell: It's time we looked outside of the box

PUBLISHED: 15:00 01 May 2019

Thomas Dowdeswell. Picture: Paul Samuel White.

Thomas Dowdeswell. Picture: Paul Samuel White.

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Bristol artist Thomas Dowdeswell's first solo exhibition in London is now underway at Cass Art Islington. Here, he talks to us about his inspiration for the show, which is called The Age of People Who Live With Their Heads in Boxes.

An example of the work featured in Dowdeswell's latest art show. Picture: Paul Samuel White.An example of the work featured in Dowdeswell's latest art show. Picture: Paul Samuel White.

“This is 'the age of people who live with their heads in boxes' where people walk the streets with their heads buried in their phones. Where people immerse themselves in barriers to the outside world; where opinions are driven and led.”

Thomas Dowdeswell is discussing the landscape from which the idea for his first London solo exhibition has developed.

The Bristol-based contemporary artist is addressing political events across the globe for this show, which began on Tuesday (April 30) at Cass Art on Colebrooke Row.

The Age of People Who Live With Their Heads in Boxes will continue until Sunday, May 12.

The show runs at Cass Art until May 12. Picture: Paul Samuel White.The show runs at Cass Art until May 12. Picture: Paul Samuel White.

Consisting of brightly coloured paintings, drawings and sculptures often featuring figures with their heads – you guessed it – in boxes, the artist is seeking to trigger a debate on populism, narcissism and the uncertainties of the future through his surrealist output.

Through his work, Dowdeswell is also imploring people everywhere to imagine a world free of these boxes.

He continues: “If we are brave enough and determined enough to remove our heads from these boxes, then we can realise that we have a wealth of shared experiences; that our similarities far outweigh our differences.”

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The Age of People… has evolved from Dowdeswell's other projects from recent years – most significantly the 'American Series' – which featured medium and large-scale paintings centred on the uncertainties of the new world order.

Like this current series, much of his previous figurative work has involved figures with abstract faces.

“The framework for this exhibition formed out of a duo of concepts – identity and the definition of a box,” explains Dowdeswell.

“Who are the strangers we pass on the street; could they be potential enemies or potential friends; what are their values, what do they hide?

“Over time I also began considering what a box represents. A box could be a room, or a dwelling or a set of either protecting or entrapping walls.

“It could be a television or a screen – some form of escapism. It could be a gallery or display case. It could be a covering or a mask.”

The exhibition, which features around 17 paintings, 15 drawings, two sculptures and some 'war and peace wallpaper' offers plenty of variety and scope for thought.

“It's an interesting mix,” adds Dowdeswell, “some are fairly open and simple pieces, while others are very surreal and abstract.

“My aim is to make them engaging and thought-provoking for the broadest range of people, and to consider the dangers of prejudice.”

The exhibition continues at Cass Art, 66-67 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AB until May 12; thomasdowdeswell.com.

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